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Lucky Moments

Robert BernardMartin, 1 April 1983

Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester 
edited by Jeremy Treglown.
Blackwell, 208 pp., £14, September 1982, 0 631 12897 2
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... For three centuries Rochester has been in and out of the pantheon of English poetry, but today we can see more clearly that the romantic image of the lyrical libertine who underwent a spectacular deathbed conversion has obscured a major poetic talent. Not that the old picture was wrong, but it was partial. The trouble has been that it is hard to fit his philosophical and religious beliefs, poetic practice and dissolute life into a whole ...

Sheets

Robert BernardMartin, 4 April 1985

The Collected Letters of William Morris. Vol. I: 1848-1880 
edited by Norman Kelvin.
Princeton, 626 pp., £50.30, April 1984, 0 691 06501 2
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... When he first heard of William Morris’s death, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt wrote in his diary, ‘He is the most wonderful man I have known,’ then added more equivocally: ‘unique in this, that he had no thought for anything or person, including himself, but only for the work he had in hand.’ This handsome new edition of Morris’s letters does not entirely answer our natural question of how a man so often apparently unmoved by other persons should have had the explosive creative energy to become famous as poet, artist, decorator, printer, manufacturer and socialist ...

Ripping the pig

Robert BernardMartin, 5 August 1982

The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson: Vol. 1 1821-1850 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 366 pp., £17.50, February 1982, 0 19 812569 0
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Tennyson: ‘In Memoriam’ 
edited by Susan Shatto and Marion Shaw.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, March 1982, 0 19 812747 2
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... Two months after Tennyson’s death Burne-Jones was reluctantly following the instructions of the poet’s widow and son in repainting the portrait of Tennyson as a young man which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Emily Tennyson had never liked the picture, perhaps in part because she also disliked Edward FitzGerald, who had originally commissioned it from Samuel Laurence ...

Pork Chops

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life 
by Robert BernardMartin.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 00 217662 9
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... in the museum of the past. So many Victorian things do; it seems a feature of that epoch. R.B. Martin’s skills as a biographer, already manifest in his detailed and persuasive studies of Tennyson, FitzGerald and Charles Kingsley, are at their best in that rich Victorian ambience where religion, art and sex mingled in an unself-conscious totality. He ...

Fitz

John Bayley, 4 April 1985

With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald 
by Robert BernardMartin.
Faber, 313 pp., £17.50, February 1985, 0 571 13462 9
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... is sui generis in the same way. It also seems to stand outside its author. Although Professor Martin does the best that can be done with him, FitzGerald was not, from the literary point of view, a particularly interesting man. He lacks the artistic quiddity of even such minor Victorian figures as Coventry Patmore or Francis Thompson. He is cousin to ...

Ripping Yarns

John Sutherland, 8 April 1993

Tennyson 
by Michael Thorn.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90299 3
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Tennyson 
by Peter Levi.
Macmillan, 370 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 333 52205 2
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... like Blake or Ginsberg, a poet for the wild Sixties. A provocative spin was given to the debate by Robert BernardMartin in his Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart (1980). Martin traced the Tennysonian gloom back to the fear of stigmatising illness. Young Alfred’s formative years, according ...

Tennyson’s Nerves

Frank Kermode, 6 November 1980

Tennyson: The Unqulet Heart 
by Robert BernardMartin.
Oxford/Faber, 656 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 812072 9
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Thro’ the Vision of the Night: A Study of Source, Evolution and Structure in Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’ 
by J.M. Gray.
Edinburgh, 179 pp., £10, August 1980, 0 85224 382 0
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... Robert Martin’s book is not one of those literary biographies that reshuffle a familiar narrative and perhaps add a few bits of new information or conjecture. It is a full-scale life, founded on primary sources, many of them previously unpublished. As the first major biography since Hallam Tennyson’s pious memoir of 1897, it has obvious importance ...

Hairy

E.S. Turner, 1 October 1987

The war the Infantry knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium 
by Captain J.C. Dunn, introduced by Keith Simpson.
Jane’s, 613 pp., £18, April 1987, 0 7106 0485 8
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Passchendaele: The Story behind the Tragic Victory of 1917 
by Philip Warner.
Sidgwick, 269 pp., £13.95, June 1987, 0 283 99364 2
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Poor Bloody Infantry: A Subaltern on the Western Front 1916-17 
by Bernard Martin.
Murray, 174 pp., £11.95, April 1987, 0 7195 4374 6
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... any fighting unit. In the Great War the Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers could muster Robert Graves (Good-bye to All That), Siegfried Sassoon (Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer) and Frank Richards (not, as some have supposed, the creator of Billy Bunter but the author of Old soldiers never die, an excellent view of the ...

What he meant by happiness

Patricia Beer, 11 June 1992

The Wreck of the Deutschland 
by Sean Street.
Souvenir, 208 pp., £15.99, March 1992, 0 285 63051 2
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Hopkins: A Literary Biography 
by Norman White.
Oxford, 531 pp., £35, March 1992, 0 19 812099 0
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... of the shipwreck so briskly dealt with in the two recent biographies of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Robert BernardMartin’s book, published last year, summarises the information in two competent pages. In Norman White’s Hopkins: A Literary Biography his comments on what happened, scattered passim through the relevant ...

An Urbane Scholar in a Wilderness of Tigers

Robert Irwin: Albert Hourani, 25 January 2001

A Vision of the Middle East: An Intellectual Biography of Albert Hourani 
by Abdulaziz Al-Sudairi.
Tauris, 221 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9781860645815
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... Arab Peoples. When that book was published in 1991 it was strongly criticised by Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer for presenting Arab history as largely a matter of continuities, negotiated accommodations and glowing cultural achievements, underplaying the wars, factional fighting, despotism, religious bigotry and poverty. In a review in the TLS, I took much ...

Ozymandias Syndrome

Robert Irwin, 24 August 1995

Islamic Architecture 
by Robert Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 645 pp., £49.50, November 1994, 0 7486 0479 0
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The Art and Architecture of Islam 1250-1800 
by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom.
Yale, 348 pp., £45, August 1994, 0 300 05888 8
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The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity 
edited by Martin Frishman and Hassan-Uddin Khan.
Thames and Hudson, 288 pp., £36, November 1994, 0 500 34133 8
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Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey 
by Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby.
Alexandria Press/Laurence King, 384 pp., £60, July 1994, 1 85669 054 7
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... ruins became teaching aids in a series of lectures on the sinfulness and transience of tyranny. Robert Hillenbrand’s meditations on Eastern ruins may similarly lead his readers to thoughts of mortality and transience. Many of the buildings he studies in Islamic Architecture have an overt function – whether prayer, teaching, interment or pleasure – yet ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann, 6 June 1996

The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... trauma, psychological numbing, amnesia, insomnia or other forms of automatic arousal. Readers of Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon or Pat Barker should not be surprised that this description of PTSD turns out to have a strong resemblance to the description of shell-shock that has become part of the modern literary tradition: the psychiatrists are, after ...

Diary

Hamish MacGibbon: My Father the Spy, 16 June 2011

... to have been generally neutral, and sometimes hostile. Frank Kermode recalled (in an LRB review of Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread) that he knew several intelligence officers who thought it would be no bad thing if the Russians were defeated while serving to wear down German military capability. Up until the German invasion the SIS had agents in place in Moscow ...

Hitchcocko-Hawksien

Christopher Prendergast, 5 June 1997

Projections 7 
edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue.
Faber, 308 pp., £11.99, April 1997, 0 571 19033 2
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. I: The Fifties. Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 312 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15105 8
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. II: The Sixties. New Wave, New Cinema, Re-evaluating Hollywood 
edited by Jim Hillier.
Routledge, 363 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 15106 6
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Cahiers du cinema. Vol. III: 1969-72. The Politics of Representation 
edited by Nick Browne.
Routledge, 352 pp., £65, September 1996, 0 415 02987 2
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... In Martin Scorsese’s Casino, Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) remarks that Las Vegas is about ‘selling people dreams for cash’ and, in a memorable elaboration of this cliché, that ‘it does for us what Lourdes does for hunchbacks and cripples.’ Much the same has been said about the culture of cinema, and how Scorsese’s film stands in relation to its subject is an interesting question ...

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